Woman Behind the Painter
The Diaries of Rosalie, Mrs. James Clarke Hook
The wife of the prominent Victorian painter of seascapes, James Clarke Hook (1819-1907), Rosalie was a trained artist and brought her artist?s sensibility, her humour, and her talent for relationships to the project of writing a diary of their travels to Italy in the two turbulent years of the Risorgimento leading up to 1848. Rosalie’s subsequent diary records a busy professional couple in the thick of running a country home with studio, annual trips to the bracing coastal sites where Hook painted, and their relations with famous contemporaries. Juliet McMaster, a descendant of the Hooks, provides a fascinating introduction on their professional and personal lives. The book is illustrated throughout by Hook?s vivid sketches and by many of James’s and Rosalie’s paintings.
"Before me sit two diaries by women artists. One is by Rosalie Hook, a painter in her own right, written when she went to Italy with her new husband, James Hook (who would become a member of the Royal Academy) in the historically significant years 1846-48. This handsome edition with colour illustrations and photographs, carefully prepared by her descendent Juliet McMaster, also includes a less verbose diary covering her years at home in England from 1853 to 1896. ... Art persists as a preoccupation in both diaries, but the women develop very different relationships to art and artists. ... Hook's diary will be read primarily by those who wish to peek into the Victorian circle she inhabited, which included artists such as John Millais, Frederick Stephens, Frederick Leighton, and William Holman Hunt. Knowing this, McMaster cleverly created an illustrated artists' index at the back of the book with references to the day of their appearance in the diaries. " Kathryn Carter, UTQ, Winter 2008
". ..This diary has now become the heart of an exhaustive look at her life by Juliet McMaster, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a descendant of Rosalie, who has divided the book almost equally into three parts: her own introduction, which gives historical and social background and needed information on James; "The Italy Diary," in which Rosalie writes with clarity, the observant eye of an artist, and a humour that can be caustic; and "The Silverbeck Diary," named after the couple's estate in England. Rosalie's very brief entries in this last diary are crammed with references to painting trips, visiting artists, resident animals, nursing lessons, "packing paintings for Chicago," jam-making, varnishing days, and such odd notes as "had 500 fish from Andrews" and "picked up a balloon from Paris" (explained in McMaster's intriguing footnote). The few colour plates include Millais's portrait of James and an oil by Rosalie that may make the reader wistful for her abandoned artistic career. There are also many black and white sketches, mostly by James, and several portraits by the Hook sons with the newly developed camera. There are footnotes, maps, an index of artists, a general index, and family trees. At first glance, it may look intimidating to the general reader. With patience, it becomes an absorbing and personal look at mid-19th-century artistic, social, and political history. " - Pauline Carey
"Professor McMaster has done a brilliant job of blending the diaries of Rosalie wife of the painter, James Hook, with multiple examples of his work. The diaries record the 1800's Italian art world, particularly the world of the expatriate painters, such as Foster, Millais, Palmer, and the Hunts. Artists will enjoy seeing the lives of those in their profession as seen by an intimate. It is a whole new concept in the enjoyment and study of art. " Ron McIsaac, Island NEWS, Jun 14, 2006.
". ..the lengthy introduction shows to good effect Juliet McMaster's energetic and direct writing style, ideal for explaining complicated truths. McMaster's introduction is crucial for understanding the significance of the diary and its writer. " Kathryn Carter, University of Toronto Quarterly, Winter 2008
"Presenting the full narrative details of Rosalie Hook's domestic partnership with her artist husband, Woman Behind The Painter begins with the fifth day after the young couples' marriage in August of 1846, and continues through their travels to May of 1848. Hallmarked with her vivid and tangible dialogue, enhanced throughout with both colour and B/W illustrations,. Woman Behind The Painter is very highly recommended for Women's Studies, Art history, and Travel Diary supplemental reading lists and academic reference collections. " Michael J. Carson, the Midwest Book Review, May 1 2006.